If it’s true you can taste the love in someone’s food, Bri Hermans’ meals are like a giant hug. Every day she bundles up a home-cooked dish and delivers it to a hungry family. It might be spaghetti or lasagna, tacos or enchiladas, or the midwestern staple of meat and potatoes. Whatever it is, it’s always chocked-full of nourishment and topped with southern charm.
Bri, originally from Georgia, reckons there is always someone in a tight spot in need of a good meal. She began reaching out to others with her Southern Hospitality Kitchen in January and served 40 people during her first month. She grew to serve 50 in February.
Why does a young mother of two-year-old twins spend her days cooking free food for other families? Bri says, “This gives back to me, too. It gives me more purpose during the day. I’m setting a good example for my children. They know I am going to help people when I’m out delivering the food. That’s important.”
The twins were the genesis of the project. The babies were born at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls two years ago and spent time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit over the Christmas holiday.
Bri recalls, “There literally was nowhere to eat, even the hospital staff didn’t have much to eat because the cafeteria and food court had limited hours.” The next year Bri and her husband, Dale, cooked a Christmas meal for people in the same situation at the hospital. “We like to cook, and knew a meal would be appreciated.” The dinner was a hit and so last Christmas they did it again. This time for 150 people.
When the family returned to Milbank, the entire area was in the throes of, what is now being called, Christmas Day Ice Storm 2016. Bri quickly headed back into the kitchen to make meals for the linemen who were working long hours in the cold. “Because we had done this, I felt comfortable reaching out and lining up meals for those linemen. In no time, people were banging down my door to help financially, to contribute supplies, or to help with the cooking.”
According to Bri, a lot of people were touched by the linemen meals. So, she started contacting people she knew who were in a tight situation and offered them a meal. “They all welcomed it. The more people I contacted, the more I realized the need. So, I just keep going. I figure it’s a good time to be a do-er.”
Bri has received donations of money, food, and containers for delivery, but says, “A majority of the funding for this is coming out of my pocket. I cannot sustain that very long. I’m not looking for handouts, though. Every bit of money or support goes right back into making these meals for those that need them.”
“Anyone can sit and talk about it and complain,” she says, “but unless you are doing something proactive, what’s the point?” “I really would like to see this grow. I would like to see this as a community-wide charity. I’m just one person; I need support or its just going to crash and burn.”
“If people want to pitch in, I can give them food items to purchase and deliver to me. Donations of meat and produce would be beneficial or gift cards to the grocery stores. If it’s easier to give money, that is welcome too. Every little bit helps.”
Bri and Tammi Westfield are also collaborating and, one day during brainstorming, they realized a lot of people want to help, but it’s harder to get motivated without a group. So, they created a group – a get-together with friends and neighbors and everyone gets food- reminiscent of a quilting bee. Bri says, “The idea is to meet to prepare a meal ahead of time for your family while making an extra meal for a family in need.” The first meal prep is the last Tuesday of this month – March 28 – at American Lutheran Church. “You bring the fixings to make one meal to take home and one meal to donate to Southern Hospitality Kitchen. It’s a great way to help yourself and give back to the community at the same time.”
Bri says she is looking forward to having extra hands in the kitchen. “People who have been helping have two or three jobs already and are scraping to get by themselves. Of course, it’s stories like that, that really keep me going,” she says. “No matter how unfortunate we are, there is someone who is worse off – not just financially, but emotionally, too.”
“If you would like to help, send me a message. Also, anyone who needs a little help, either on a regular basis or sporadically, just let me know. There are no strings attached, no expectations, and no surprises. Just a good hot meal for your family!”